My Scottish Gin Journey

Tanya Brown, The Gael Spirits Company.

Published: 19th November 2019

You have a great idea for a gin but don’t own a gin still or distillery so how do you make your dream a reality? In My Scottish Gin Journey, we speak with the Scottish Gin brand owners who have created their own Scottish Gin brand and established a business but have collaborated with others to help bring their gin to life. Often this includes seeking the help and guidance of a distiller and use of a gin still for distillation, advice on legal regulations surrounding the production and sale of gin and a whole lot more.

In the first of our new editorial series we meet Tanya Brown, co-founder and part of the team behind the The Gael Spirits Company and The Gael Scottish Gin. The business is located in the historic cathedral “city” of Dunkeld, which sits within an area of Scotland known as Big Tree Country, a heavily wooded area which features a number of notable trees including the Birnam Oak, named by Shakespeare in Macbeth. The Gael Scottish Gin is the creation of 4 friends, with backgrounds in the drinks industry and music industry, which equally inspired their product and brand. Find out more about their gin journey so far…

When did you first have the idea to make a gin?

It all started at a get-together with friends. Nigel and Jamie were chatting, enjoying the music, having a couple of drinks and got to discussing work and what they were up to. With Nigel working in the drinks industry and Jamie working in the music industry, they realised they were both looking for a bit of a change of direction and a new challenge. As the evening progressed this grew arms and legs and the next thing we knew we were all going to create our own musical gin!

What was your process for creating the flavour profile?

Lots of tasting! We wanted our gin to be a bit different but still have a traditional gin formula. We used a traditional mix of gin botanicals including, of course juniper, as well as coriander, cassia bark, orris root, orange peel to name a few. We loved the idea of a single malt base spirit which gives a unique creaminess to the taste and a link to traditional Scottish spirits. Another Scottish element we wanted to add was heather. We are surrounded by heather covered hills in Perthshire and wanted to encompass this into our gin to work in harmony with the other botanicals. This took quite a few experimental batches and many taste tests from family and friends before we found the combination we were all happy with.

What’s your role in the distillation and production aspects of your gin?

We oversee the distillation and production of all aspects of the liquid and then through the bottling and labelling to the finished product to ensure our quality of product is maintained.

Can you tell us a bit more about your business name, packaging and branding?

The Gael is a Scottish Fiddle tune written by Jamie’s dad Dougie Maclean in the 1980s as part of a commission for the Loch Ness Visitor Centre. It was subsequently picked up as part of the soundtrack for The Last of the Mohicans and is played by pipe bands the world over. It seemed the perfect choice for our Scottish gin and Dougie has been very supportive and enthusiastic from the get-go.

Our aim with our packaging was to show the tune in a way that showed the timeless nature of the music in a simple and respectful way. The music score of the tune is visible through the bottle, enhanced by the liquid. Our fiddle logo also features on all our branding as a nod to the traditional Scottish music scene. We wanted to keep it simple and let it speak for itself. 

What are some of the benefits of having a contract distilled gin?

Being contract distilled at Strathleven Distillers means we have the advantage of all the knowledge and expertise that Ricky Christie has gained over many years in the industry. He knows his stuff and we trust him to produce our product.

What are some of the disadvantages of having a contract distilled gin?

The main disadvantage is probably fitting in with the distillation programme and the planning that goes on around this. 

What have been some of the business challenges you’ve had to overcome?

There is a lot involved in getting a finished product….perhaps more than we realised! We have done all our own design work and website and that can take up a lot of our time as well as co-ordinating distilling and bottling programmes so that hopefully everything runs smoothly, on time and in conjunction with each other. It is challenging but it’s also exciting and we have all learned so much since we started the process and I am sure there is a lot more to learn.

What are some of your business highlights?

Getting our finished product! It was a real thrill to see our bottle filled, labelled and ready to hit the shelves. To take something from nothing to a finished product, created by us, is a real pleasure and to be able to show people the finished product after months of behind-the-scenes work, most of which was majorly out of our comfort zones, was a real highlight. Finishing our website, putting it live and getting those first web orders was really exciting and seeing it on the shelves of bars and retail outlets is amazing. We still get a buzz every time we add another stockist to our list!

What are the long term goals for your gin, business and brand?

The main thing for us at the moment is just getting it out there and spreading the word. We have just finished production of our 20cl bottles and we are hoping to add miniatures to our growing family in the not too distant future. We are growing our stockists and hope that continues. Longer term, we want the whole world to know about The Gael. 

Do you think the consumer cares where the gin they’re buying is made?

Yes. Consumers are a lot more conscious nowadays about where something they are buying is coming from. I feel there has to be a certain level of respect towards consumers to be open about where a product is made. People care, and people want to support Scottish produce. The Gael is distilled, bottled and based in Scotland. This is something we are proud of as a business and feel people would want to know.

Do you think more could be done to help Scottish Gin makers and brands?

Every company will have their own ambitions and ideas of progression into different markets or how they want their brand to grow so it is difficult to say what form/shape help for Scottish Gin makers and brands could take. However global awareness of Scottish Gin is definitely growing. International Scottish Gin Day was a great success and all the hard work that was put into the day by yourselves really highlighted the buzz around Scottish Gin, not just in Scotland and the UK but all over the world. Scotland is a nation known for its expertise in distilling whisky and it would be great for gin to be recognised on the same level.

Would you like to open and operate your own distillery one day?

Never say never! 

Where do you think Scottish Gin as a drinks category will be in 10 years?

The aspiration would be for Scotland to be known as the world leader for quality gin production, as it is for other produce. I think that in 10 years time Scottish Gin will be as popular as ever and recognised the world over for its quality.

Why do think gin has become so popular?

Gin has always been a popular drink, or it has in my family anyway! My parents and grandparents have always reached for a G and T as their go-to drink on a sunny summer’s evening. I think the main difference nowadays is not only choice in the market, but also people’s thirst for knowledge about the product they are drinking. People are really passionate about gin, where it is made, who has made it, how it is made and I think that passion has come from the gin makers themselves who are out there telling their stories and educating people on the world of gin.

So what’s next for your brand and business?

Now we are up and running, the sky’s the limit! You never know what the future holds but we are really looking forward to getting our miniatures produced and building our range of products. 

Learn more about The Gael Spirits Company here.

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